I want to start a series of entries on unusual expressions of the Christian faith. Stylites are a good place to start.
The stylites were a group of quasi-monastics in the early church, around 400 a.d. the beginnings of monasticism began pretty much when Christianity became officially accepted by the Empire. This was a bad sign to many early Christians. To them, the Church should not be an official anything, so many went into the desert to live out their God experience. Some of these desert people gathered into groups and lived together, this was the beginning of monasteries.
Some did stay in the city and practiced they're various austerities. One such was Simeon Stylites. Simeon got rather famous and was sought after for his wisdom. Eventually, Simeon felt the pressure and went vertical, constructing a column for himself to live on. Throughout the years several different "column dwellers" emerged, and the columns got bigger and bigger. One Stylite even had a Trajan Column, which is a large column that has a spiral staircase inside.
To me, these Stylites are the pinnacle (pun alert!) of self-aggrandizement. It's so easy to paint these guys with the brush of pride, but the truth is they showed there love for God in a new although strange way, and they stayed in the city, which I can respect.